By Joe Bachman
It’s not a kids show — it’s a family.
The “Comic Book Artist” will be opening this weekend; a youth production that will feature performers from 7 to 18 years of age. However, any of these kids could tell you that this isn’t just about putting on a show, it’s about family.
“Over these shows we’ve really become a family,” said 13-year-old Adrienne Scheide, who will be the narrator of the production. “When you’re onstage you really get to be someone else — this theater brings out my true self more than any other place I can probably think of.”
The performance, spanning two shows over two days is a HOPO production, directed by Stephanie Hoerth. HOPO productions gives kids of all ages the chance to get a taste of the theatre, and an experience unlike no other.
“It helps with confidence, it helps with poise and speaking abilities,” said Hoerth on the benefits of acting in an onstage production. “You can’t compare this to anything else — you hear that first laughter of the audience; that first applause, it’s like a high you can never duplicate.”
HOPO started in 2010 by Hoerth and past performer Gretchen Powers after Prairie Fire Children’s Theater stopped coming to the area in 2009. Hoerth and Powers decided to start their own production company shortly after, taking the name from the first two letters of their last names. They have been producing a youth production every summer, since.
“It’s a lot of work, but it’s so much fun,” said Victor Hofmeister, 15, who will be playing “Star Guy” this weekend. “I never expected it to be so much fun, hanging out and meeting new kids.”
“Theatre will always be apart of my life to some degree,” said 18-year-old Stevens Point native Michael Treder, who will be playing the part of “Dr. Shock Clock”. Treder took part in his first production at the age of 10 and sees no signs of slowing down. “I love acting and everything about it — I think always do community theatre when I have the chance.”
With over 50 kids of all ages in the play, work behind the scenes and on the front is no small task, especially when the show is rehearsed, polished and perfected before opening night in a span of just one week. However, the HOPO crew is experienced — stage manager Whitley Ciszewski is taking part in her first HOPO production, but has been involved in theatre for many years, and has a background in elementary education.
“It’s crazy that we do it all in one week — it’s a full show and it’s amazing that they’re able to retain everything,” said Ciszewski. “Every kid has a speaking role — they got their scripts a couple weeks ago and they’ve just been memorizing so that when they got here we could just get started.”
The consensus is that of excitement among these kids, and they would like nothing more than to share a night a laughter with as many as possible.
“There are a lot of fun people here,” said 15-year-old Bing Brazeau, who plays the part of Stanley Leonardo Sappovitz. “They’re a joy to work with.”
“Comic Book Artist” opens Saturday night at the Wisconsin Rapids Community Theatre at 7:00 p.m. with a Sunday matinee at 2:00 p.m. For more information please visit http://www.wrctheatre.org/youthproductions.asp